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Raging Bull: Special Edition

Among the many accolades that have been conferred upon Martin Scorsese's Raging Bull since its release in November of 1980 is that of "Best Boxing Film Ever Made", an encomium it seems to have garnered simply by virtue of every film magazine and society declaring the picture the finest achievement of a decade badly starved for greatness. So, when Sports Illustrated broke ranks last year to hand the belt over to Rocky (the movie that out-pointed Scorsese's Taxi Driver for Best Picture in 1976!), many eyebrows were raised. They shouldn't have been (save for maybe the crowning of Rocky over, say, Fat City, or When We Were Kings). Though Scorsese and writers Mardik Martin and Paul Schrader succeed at conveying the agonizingly manipulative influence of organized crime that has always tainted the sport, particularly in the era that its subject, Jake LaMotta, contended and briefly held the Middleweight title, forcing fighters to throw a fight or two as a profitable act of fealty before getting their shot at the belt, Raging Bull is finally as much about boxing as The Fountainhead is about architecture. This is partly due to Scorsese's distaste for boxing, and sports in general. As is repeated several times on this excellent two-disc set's many supplements, he didn't want to make this movie. The passion for the project was initially De Niro's, and he tenaciously kept after his own private John Ford until the director wound up in a hospital "exhausted" due to a ferocious cocaine habit. Finally, Scorsese saw the potential for cinematic transformation in the putrid life of LaMotta, or, more likely, recognized a need to reenergize his dedication to the craft by way of utilizing every trick, every angle, every last article of filmic vocabulary. The making of Raging Bull would be a consuming creative journey, the final product a gritty valentine to filmmaking, a clarion call of reinvention, andÍ well, something ostensibly about a heel's penance and absolution. That latter aspiration has always been the most troubling aspect of Raging Bull, and is obviously the reason why film geeks, when praising the director's work, head straight for the gleefully amoral timpano of Goodfellas or the gory pulp deep-dish of Taxi Driver rather than go a few rounds with one of the most technically accomplished motion pictures ever made. And that's because Raging Bull means everything to Martin Scorsese, and very little to anyone else. MGM Home Entertainment presents Raging Bull in a terrific anamorphic (1.85:1) transfer with solid Dolby Digital 5.1 audio. Extras on the two disc special edition begin on disc one with three feature length commentaries, the first by Scorsese and Thelma Schoonmaker, the second "cast and crew" track featuring Irwin Winkler, Robert Chartoff, Robbie Robertson, Theresa Saldana, John Turturro and Frank Warner, and the third "storytellers" track featuring Mardik Martin, Paul Schrader, Jason Lustig and LaMotta himself. Disc two boasts four behind the scenes featurettes: "Before the Fight" (26 min.), "Inside the Ring" (14 min.), "Outside the Ring" (27 min.) and "After the Fight" (15 min.). There's also "The Bronx Bull" (27 min.), a somewhat redundant behind-the-scenes doc that features conversations with LaMotta. Also on board is a shot-by-shot comparison titled "De Niro vs. LaMotta", a vintage newreel titled "LaMotta Defends Title" and the original theatrical trailer. Dual-DVD digipak with paperboard slipcase.
—Clarence Beaks

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